Posts Tagged With: frustrations

Beijing: A Wall, another zoo, and some people who need putting in it.

Beijing was a good ending to China. It meant we didn’t leave on the huge negative hatred we had by the end of Xi’an. Or maybe we’d just got used to the spitting, squatting, staring and shoving by this point. Bad things in China begin with the letter ‘S’. There’s an episode of Sesame Street they never aired.

We started out, as I’m sure most tourists do, with Tiananmen Square. However, with two Metro lines to choose from (Tiananmen East and Tiananmen West) we were spoilt for choice.

“It must be a really big square if it needs TWO Metro stops,” I said to Ashley, quite excited.

“It’s the biggest in the world I think,” came the reply.

We arise from the ground to be greeted by a recognisable red building to the right of us with Mao framed nice and big in the middle…and a road to the left.

“Well, that doesn’t really count as the biggest square in the world. There’s a road going through it. I feel conned again,” I said, slightly disappointed.

After the mandatory photos of the big red Mao building, we headed back through the underpass to cross the road.

“Oh, ok. This is the square. I’ll let them off.”

We’d got out the wrong side of the road to appreciate the vastness of the square. Blocked by two rather large screens showing the beautiful sights of China on a loop, yes, but vast all the same.

Not quite sure how to get through to the Forbidden City without paying to visit a garden, we headed in the other direction and found ourselves in a modern looking, conveniently located tourist street. It didn’t take long to put the ‘2008’ date on the drains, artificial flowers and still fully stocked Olympic shop together and figure out that this street must have been built in time for the Olympics. It was like Disneyland. Until you notice a depressed sheep sat head in hands against a wall. Very odd.

By the time we left fakeville and reached the Forbidden City (through a garden we had to pay for) there was only an hour until closing time. And a homeless woman was having a breakdown. So we decided to do it another day. We did however, have time to go into a park behind the Forbidden City that gives the most amazing (but misty) view of the Forbidden City if you climb to a spot where an Emperor once hung himself. A bizarre sentence, yes, it may seem.

And so, as day two arrived in Beijing, it was time to hit the Wall. The Great Wall. One of the Seven Wonders of The World. A day to remember. It snowed a little. Doesn’t get much better!

And it was really cold. Really, really, really cold. But it was snowing! How could we not go to the Wall the day it snowed?! Imagine the beautiful photos! It’s higher up there, there’s got to be more snow! So we carried on regardless. There was no more snow.

The two main ways to see the Wall are tour or public bus. As the public bus cost a 10th of the price of the cheapest tour, we opted for public bus. We had a Metro station, and instructions to walk 500m east to the bus stop when we get there. However, east (or in fact north, south or west) is difficult to determine when you haven’t got a compass. Thankfully, a very nice man helped us out and pointed us in the right direction. Our new instruction was “second on the left”.

Before we reached “second on the left”, we found a sign pinned to a tree saying “919”, four Westerners and a man in uniform.

“Badaling? Badaling?” said the official man.

“Yes, yes. Badaling from here?”

“Yes, yes.” He spoke very little English. To make this easier, I’ve put the conversation in English.

“Ok. How much is it?”

“55 Yuan per person, per way.”

“55? I read 12!”

“No, no.”

Hmm. Something didn’t add up. So us and the other 4 Westerners worked as a team and found another bus stop further down – this time, the “919” was a sticker on a tree! Is that better than pinned to a tree?…

The same thing happened, only this guy wasn’t so sneaky,

“Yes, 55 each way. But with one, two, three in car, taxi, 400 Yuan.”

“Ahh, no, it’s ok, we’ll take the bus.”

Eventually, we found it. A bus stop specifically for 919 buses, full of 919 buses. At least 6 of them. Go team!

Our team of taxi tout avoiders had somewhat dispersed in the crowd but somehow me, Ashley and an American, Matthew, had managed to stay together. Matthew was a lovely bloke. He was also black – a rarity in Asia – as was proved when we arrived at the Wall for him to be met by two in-awe Chinese asking for photos with him. Good job he’s a good sport.

We weren’t sure when to stop walking the Wall. I mean, we didn’t want to end up out in the sticks, but thankfully our worries were put to rest by a huge sign in a square block of the Wall that read “NO VISITOR”.

We did it. We went as far as we could – I guess you could say we walked the Wall?…

We left the Wall feeling pretty good, if not slightly cold, which is more than can be said for when we left Beijing Zoo the next day. At least 50% of the animals caged were more intelligent than at least 50% of the visitors. Banging on the glass – including the gorilla enclosure, letting kids shout really loudly through the wires and  feeding crisps to the zebras. By the time we got to crisp/zebra girl, we’d had enough of “subtly” saying, “Oh, there’s a sign there – what dos it say? Oh, don’t bang? Oh ok then – I won’t bang the glass!”

Ashley approached crisp/zebra girl after we’d watched her for too long.

“Hey, hello, excuse me. Come here,” he ushered her towards the signboard. She looked stupidly and didn’t move. I joined Ashley, “Come, follow.” She still didn’t move.

“The sign says no feeding. Don’t feed them,” Ashley pointed to the crisps, “They’re wild animals. They can’t eat crisps.”

“Ahh, I know. I know.” Wow, she speaks.

We then proceeded to sit behind her for about 10 minutes. She knew we were there and didn’t feed them…until we eventually had to walk off.

Despite stressing out at the zoo and getting a tad cold, we had a pretty good time in Beijing. The Wall was more impressive than the Warriors and I think the Olympics must have worked wonders for upgrading the city here and there. That said, we were very much looking forward to getting out of China and into Japan.

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Categories: China, East Asia | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Xi’an: A Few Thousand Terracotta Warriors and Some Christmas Lights.

When we were ready to leave Xi’an, I think we were both ready to leave China. Everyday people spat more and more, including one idiot on a marble floor in a dead posh shopping mall. Everyday people stared more and more, including one man on our way to the train station who I couldn’t help but question very loudly in English. The shoving, the spitting, the starting and the sheer undeniable rudeness of the Chinese people had become far too much, and to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to 5 more days in Beijing before we leave China.

This is a shame, because having said that, Xi’an is actually a really nice place and as close to rural China as we’re going to get on this trip (yes, I’m aware there’s a population of over 4 million). If you love history, you could hang around for ages because there’s loads of ancient tombs etc all around Xi’an. However, the main draw is the Army of Terracotta Warriors – self-dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. This was our Christmas Day! And what with it being Christmas ‘n’ all, we treated ourselves to a tour rather than making our own way on the bus. This turned out to be a bonus as you’d never notice it from the side of the road and would probably end up somewhere even more rural.

Anyway, we woke nice and early Christmas morning after the hostel Christmas shin-dig the night before. It was all very exciting. There was music, and competitions and a magician. I’ve always wanted to see a magician!…but a tall person sat in front of me for that bit. Back to Christmas morning – up we gets, out we goes and in the reception we waits.

“Are you waiting for a tour? To the Terracotta Warriors?”

“Yeah”

“I am your guide for the day. Welcome! Come with me. Merry Christmas!”

“Aww!! Thanks!” It’s Christmas!

It was quite nice that the other 3 people on our tour were an English family. We hadn’t met many, and the first we do we’re spending Christmas day with! On the way to the Terracotta Warriors, we stopped off at an ‘Art and Ceramics Factory’. It turns out that this place batch produce hundreds, if not thousands of mini and full-sized Terracotta Warriors for the tourists to buy. Do you ever watch Willy Wonka and think, “It’d be ruined. The wonder of his magical chocolate’s taste, fizz and scrumdidillioumptiousness would be ruined if you went there.”? Well that’s what this commission grabbing tourist trap did to my view of the Terracotta Warriors. But there’s more….

When you arrive and after the 360° circle cinema you finally walk into Pit 1 (there’s 3 pits altogether), it is actually quite impressive. As I wondered around, however, it became less impressive, and I couldn’t help but think “Is this a conspiracy?!”.

Fact #1: The weapons found in the tomb used technology not invented until 1939 in Germany.

Fact #2: The bodies aren’t all together. Some are headless, saves  bit of work.

Fact #3: The factory. They can be made so easily!

Pessimistic I know, but something felt a little odd.

It did make for a memorable and different Christmas day though. Worth a visit if you’re in China I think it’s fair to say.

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Observations on Myanmar.

In theory, I shouldn’t like Burma. It made me ill, at least twice; it’s full of stray dogs and skinny horses; the internet connection is like the one I had at home in 1999, which at the time was amazing but we’d moan about now in England. All the reasons I didn’t like Indonesia exist in Burma. I think there’re two differences this time though.

  1. I was prepared. I knew it’d be a bit grubby, I knew the internet would be rubbish and I knew travel would be slow and on terrible roads.
  2. The people are lovely. The local people gave up their seats for me countless times on buses, the hotel and restaurant staff went above and beyond the call of duty so many times and if people want to help you, they’re not after money!

Burma is a really interesting place to visit, and after the indecision to come or not, I’m glad I did. Here are a few things I’ve noticed;

  • The lack of internet access and blocking of Facebook, Hotmail, YouTube etc is overhyped. I was never once denied access to any of the above, although I couldn’t load the BBC or any reliable news websites. I think the government is changing, albeit slowly. The speed is sometimes annoying though. The only place I had problems getting on the internet was Bagan – which was only when there were power cuts.
  • Incidently, Bagan is the only place I’ve had power cuts – also slightly overhyped – most hotels have generators. The only thing is sometimes the air-con doesn’t run off the generator, presumably because it sucks the power.
  • Skype is always loaded on the computers and often advertised on the banners outside the internet cafes…but it rarely works and when it does, it’s only really good enough for audio only. Mandalay is the only place I got it working.
  • Betel nut, Betel nut, Betel nut. You’re walking down the street in Burma, someone walks past and smiles baring their horrible, red teeth. You look down in disgust and are met with a sea of red blobs of spit on the pavement (or more often than not, sand) below. Eww. It’s the betel nut stuff that the locals mix with tobacco, paste into a leaf with lime juice, wrap up and chew. When the flavour is gone and they’ve spat out enough phlegm to choke a small child, they pop a new one in. They can get through loads in one day. Personally, I think it’s a disgusting thing, worse than smoking. I would rather breathe in someone’s dirty cigarette smoke than walk through someone’s red betel phlegm.  But hey, who am I to judge.
  • Through The Wire. Telephones are expensive business in Burma. Mobile phones cost hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds to own and foreign SIM cards are blocked. I was surprised I saw as many mobile phones as I did to be honest. What I was more surprised by was how many of these I saw;

There are so many people who make their living from having an old landline phone or two wired up to the line from the street side! It’s amazing.

  • All That Glitters Ain’t Gold. Let me give you a bit of background knowledge first; in 2005, the government changed the capital of the country to a random town with no real historic relevance because their astrologer told them to. Wow. So they neglected poor, old Yangon and headed north with plans for a swanky new capital. On my first of many night buses, we skirted the “new” capital. It’s weird. Loads of big, new-build, empty hotels, glowing, empty shopping malls and vast, empty, smooth tarmacked roads…
  • Speaking of buses…if you get a bus in Burma, which is the only form of transport not controlled by the government so it’s recommended; your driver will honk his horn at anything. And it’s a bloody annoying horn. Really loud and honky. And he doesn’t care if it’s 3am and you’re sleep deprived. It doesn’t appear the other passengers care either because no one bats an eyelid.
  • Pure, honest kindness. I’ve already gushed over how lovely the people are here – here’s another example. In Bagan, we got horse carts. The next day, I was walking back to my hotel and I’m met with a “Remember me?!” It was our driver! After a quick catch up (didn’t take long, it hadn’t even been 24 hours) he offered me a free ride back to my hotel. When we pulled up and I gave him a dollar, he genuinely didn’t want it. I made him take it. For that I think I’m probably the mean one.
  • Despite a bizarre political history, Burma is changing. I’m glad I visited when I did. One of my fondest memories is sitting in my hotel reception in Bagan watching BBC News with the hoteliers and giving them a thumbs up at the political prisoners being released. Since returning home and seeing Myanmar all over the news, I’ve taken a real interest in how well things are going at the moment for the country and can’t wait to see what happens next.

If you come to Burma, which I’d recommend, you need to be prepared to begin or end bus journeys at unsociable hours, sit for longer than you’d want in an internet café and possibly have to go to the doctors! Above all, however, you need to be prepared to be welcomed with open arms, to chat with your new found Burmese friends and to make some long lasting memories.

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Two Nights in a Hospital, One Night in an Airport.

On returning to Bangkok from Burma, I wanted nothing more than Skype, iron tablets and rest. I was so weak however that the very thought of an hours journey on two trains with a huge walk in between and a backpack on my back was very unappealing. I headed for the airport hotel to discover the cheapest room was 160GBP. I may have been ill but I knew this was too much for one hotel room for one person for one night. So I walked all the way back and rolled straight into a taxi to roll me straight to the same hostel as before – the speedy wi-fi being a big draw after Burma’s ridiculous internet.

After 2 hours of Skype to keep me sane however, I needed out to get something to make me feel better so I headed downstairs and asked the man for the nearest hospital to go and see a doctor. I wanted him to take some blood, tell me what’s wrong, give me some pills and send me on my way. After much mmming and ahhing about the nearest hospital, the hotel man took me to a taxi.

When I arrived at the hospital, I pointed at words in the phrasebook (about 8 out of 10 on the symptoms list) and waited my turn. The nurse took my blood pressure and then took me to the “Emergency Room”. At this point, I’d like to mention I’ve never been to hospital. Well, 3 times. When I was born, obviously, and once to pick someone up and once to visit someone, but never for my own health, so I didn’t really have a clue what to expect.

I do have a basic knowledge of the rules of hospitals, however. At least I thought I did. Mobile phones, are they allowed in an “Emergency Room”? Food, drink? The TV was on for the nurses, is this normal? A man was having some stitches put in his foot, a proper little operation, curtains wide open, no privacy. Is this how it is in England?! Is this how Emergency Rooms are?!

After a dizzy wait, I saw the doctor, who thankfully spoke English. Once I’d explained my story, he said he wanted to take a blood sample. I had this sat in my chair and it wasn’t long before I must have turned pale because I was offered a bed. After a long cold wait in said bed, I was told that the doctor wanted to admit me for the night, x-ray me and take further tests. Not one to want to argue with a doctor, I reluctantly agreed and was put into a wheelchair and taken to be x-rayed. Another first! And second, and third. He had to do it a few times.

Finally, starving, thirsty and slightly dazed, I was taken up to a bed. “Maybe this will be a bit more private than the “Emergency Room”” I though. No. Even closer beds, no air-con, privacy curtains all wide open. Again, maybe this is all normal, I don’t know. Everyone around me looked like they were on death’s door, all non-moving, wired up to respirators with pipes up their noses and drips in their arms. It wasn’t long before a very nice lady doctor came over and I had to tell her all about my poo. She was very beautiful. I bet her poo smells of roses. If she even does poo. So it was embarrassing to have to give her graphic detail of mine. She said she didn’t know what was wrong, that it could be anything, cancer, but I’m very young so probably not, a tropical disease, like malaria, she didn’t know. But she’d said the words cancer and malaria. Not great words to hear on your own in a hospital bed in a foreign country surrounded by pipes and drips. I cried a little bit, not helped by the fact that none of the nurses seemed to understand what I wanted when I pointed at the Thai for “food” in my phrasebook.

Thankfully, some visiting relatives of a very ill looking woman across from me spoke English and were kind enough to go to the 7/11 across the road and get me some food. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone. People are nice.

At this point I got a phone call from my boyfriend, which helped in the perking me up stage I was now going through. When I finished I was moved rooms! A woman in a smaller room cornered off by glass had seen me on the phone and spoke a little English so they moved me closer to her. And this room was air conditioned, and there were no respirators or pipes or drips! In fact, I was now the only one with a drip. Which was horrible, I don’t like needles so having one stuck in my hand all night wasn’t great fun.

Despite having a needle in my hand and my translator being sat watching TV ‘til the wee hours, I slept very well. Until I was woken for pills and two more blood samples. The morning was less stressful than it could have been. When I rang the hotel the night before to ask if they could bring my stuff to the hospital, the man wasn’t very helpful.

“And how am I supposed to do that?”

“Well…I don’t know, get a taxi? I’ll pay when you get here.”

“Well we can keep your stuff here until you are finished.”

“But the doctor said it could be a week! I need my stuff!”

“Ok..well..I can’t do anything tonight. Tomorrow? Maybe 1 o’clock.?”

“Yes, that’s fine. 1 o’clock tomorrow? It’ll be here?”

“Yes, yes.”

I had to ring him the next day at 3 to remind him. Thankfully, he eventually delivered my stuff just in time to keep me sane.

It was a mind numbing experience being in that hospital. I left less than 12 hours ago from writing this and it feels like a distant memory. It’s kind of hazy, a bit of a blur. A dull, repetitive blur. So I won’t bore you with the details that at the time were momentous to me but now are minimal.

The important thing to know is that consequently, I’ve decided to come home. If you’re sat reading this thinking “Oh my God, how stupid” then shut up. Unless you’ve been alone on the other side of the world, starving in a foreign hospital where you can’t speak the language and you don’t know what’s wrong then your opinion on my decision doesn’t matter to me. It is lonely, miserable and not fun. I’ve already learnt from Bali that this experience is not going to be all fun and games and happy, smiley photographs, but to be ill on and off up and down for 2 weeks and then to have to spend two nights in hospital really is enough to send me home. The thought of getting ill again in Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, where the healthcare is not quite like Thailand is just not worth the risk for me. I’ve decided to go home and rest and return in December to Hong Kong, which is when my boyfriend has his ticket to “come and meet me”, now to come out with me!

I’m not claiming this was an easy decision. I’m just claiming I don’t want any criticism for it. If there is one thing I have learnt above anything else over the past few months, it is that there is no right and wrong when it comes to travel.

If Little Bobby Joe has been travelling since he was 23 and never looked back then who’s to stop the 45 year old? If Jimmy wants to come to Thailand and go to a full moon party and get utterly out of his face because he’s just turned 18 and discovered alcohol, then good for him, I hope he has a blast. If Mary wants to go to spend six months in Belize and watch X Factor while she’s there, then so be it. If I want to come home for 6 weeks and rest in one place where I know I’ll always have a hot shower and healthy, safe food then good for me. You can sit and criticise my decision but I don’t care. There’s no right and wrong way to travel, just your way. And this is my way.

Addition 19/10/11: I’m home now, in the comfort of my room and feeling much better. A little sleep deprived but almost fully recovered from the illness and hospital. It feels good to be back.

Categories: Burma, Thailand | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

“Hey, you’re British?! You must love Danny Boyle?!”

The Hangover Part 2 has now been added the list, along with Marley And Me, of Films That Were Rudely Interrupted In A Hostel. This time there was no Mowglina, but a rude French woman. I love French people, generally speaking of course, and had even spent an hour or so earlier that evening with some lovely French people. We just sat reading and enjoyed each others company. However, last night I was in the TV/Common Room, when I found The Hangover Part 2 about three down in a pile of copied DVDs. Amazing! I’d almost considered going to the cinema earlier to see it as I’d noticed it was on and am yet to see it…still am.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite master the DVD player, and no matter which combination of plugs and wires I tried, it wasn’t ready to work. “Oh well!” I thought to myself, “Reading it is”.

A little later an English couple came up, who I’d seen earlier watching Harry Potter.

“Ahh! You were watching Harry Potter, you must know the answer to my question!”

After a little fiddle they managed to fix it (the adapter wasn’t working – they had their own!) and we settled down to watch the film. About an hour in, a group of 6 or 7 people came to join us. Now, it’s quite a big room, but it’s not a conference hall. 6 or 7 extra bodies make it very crowded. But that’s ok if they’re happy to sit and watch with us.

“What are you watching? Oh it’s that film where four guys get way too drunk and can’t remember anything? Yeah, I didn’t like the first one so there’s not much hope for this. There’s only so much you can show about four guys getting drunk,” said a woman with long blond hair, “Oh no, we couldn’t talk in the kitchen ’cause of that man, now we come in here and we can’t talk ’cause there’s a film! Ha!”

“That’s good,” I thought, “She’s recognised we’re watching and enjoying this film and will soon shut up.”

That didn’t happen. Instead, with the film geared up as a conversation starter, she proceeded to ask a Spanish couple who had also entered with the entourage if they like Almodovar, a famous Spanish film director. Now, as an Almodovar fan myself, I can quite honestly say that it’s something I would never ask a Spaniard. It would be like saying, “Hey, you’re British?! You must love Danny Boyle?!”.

The conversation didn’t end there. On and on she went….”He’s so creative…I love the way he takes something so perverse and puts it in a different light.” Blah blah blah, enough of the pretense.

After about 20 minutes I gave up. I’d lost the plot line of the film, had no idea what was going on and couldn’t hear or see to understand even if I wanted to. So I went to bed and will attempt part 2 of Part 2 tonight.

Despite this, the general mood here is good. It’s a very nice hostel – and one of the cheapest in Malaysia so far at 17RM! I’m planning to base myself in Kuching until I leave for Singapore. Most things can be reached in a day trip from here – orang utans, Bako National Park, a longhouse…so we’ll see how it goes. Plus, that will give me some downtime and much needed staying in one place and not having to repack every three days!

Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Who hasn’t slept with half the world?

Ooo, I need a rant! So this place I’m staying in Penang, really odd…

I’m walking down the street, map in hand, trying to figure out why I can’t find Blue Diamond Hostel (the cheapest in the book!) when I’m stood right by exactly where the dot is on my map, and a guy on a moped stops and asks if I’m looking for a room.I would normally ignore this, but he had an old white man on the back of his bike so he must have been a bit legit…

“Yeah, I’m looking for Blue Diamond Hostel?”

“It doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s that,” he points to where the dot on my map would indicate, “Expensive now, over a hundred Ringgit a night.”

“Oh..”

He sends me to Jim’s Place. He’s Jim.

The people are a bit weird here, like travelled for waaaay too long, dead cynical etc….then there’s this little girl. She shows me the animals at the hotel behind this place (they had lots of terrapins!) and when I get back from my walk around town, she wants to play cards. No worries. Bored of her cheating at Go Fish and having been to see the animals again, and watched her dance, I decided to go upstairs and watch a film. She follows, we end up watching a copied and skipping version of Marley And Me.

After about ten minutes, she sat on my back…then she picks my key up with her toe, no problem, then she won’t give it back to me!!

“It’s MY key, you need to give it back.”

“No, it’s Jim’s key.” She sounded rather smug.

You may think I’m overreacting, but I attach my hotel keys to my suitcase key and thus to everything I have to keep me alive for the next 4 months and a keyring with 2 out of 3 photos I have with me of me and my boyfriend. AND a keyring my sister got me from ChocoStory in Belgium. That was the deal breaker. I was rightfully, I think you’ll agree, getting angry with a little girl.

When I eventually get my key back, after feeling like I’d gone back to working in a school with the tone I was having to use, she starts tugging on my watch!! She wouldn’t let go, thinking it was a joke, I could see the evil in her eyes. The skank.

Her dad, who kept finding fault in “the system” during an earlier conversation, was downstairs (he’d smoked dope earlier in the day…great parenting, right there) and I heard him saying earlier “Do you have kids?” to some guy.
The guy responded with, “Yeah, one French, one Palestinian.” What the hell?!?!?!?!

As if it’s the most natural and normal thing in the world to have slept with half the planet, Isa..something..blah blah’s dad replies with, “I’ve got 3. One Spanish, one (something else) and Is(..blah blah or whatever her name was.) Her mother is indigenous. We were living in the rainforest for sometime.” WHAT?!?!? You were living in the rainforest so long you decided “Hey, let’s get pregnant?!”

Literally mental. Tomorrow I’m finding somewhere else!!

Just needed to vent that!

Please tell me I’m not on my own here, that’s weird, right?…

Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Kuala Lum…phuurr, what’s that smell?

And so I’ve just got on the bus heading towards the Cameron Highlands to leave Kuala Lumpur.  And I’ve encountered my first Malaysian asshole. After waiting for far longer than I should have for the bus and beginning to think it was not going to arrive, I was quite relieved to finally sit down in the seat the bus driver pointed me to. I wave goodbye to my mum and sister who are, well my mum is, looking up and down the bus to locate me. Then these two men get on, one of them stares at my seat number, wanders up and down a bit and then comes back down for another seat number staring contest.

“The driver told me to sit here,” I said, “I think my ticket says four but he’s sat in four….what does his ticket say?” I waggle my finger towards seat number four. No-one bothers to ask seat number four guy what his ticket says for quite a while. Eventually, after a lot of asshole hovering in the aisle, someone asks seat number four guy. His ticket doesn’t say four! Asshole’s friend sits down next to me, and despite there being plenty of seats still free on the bus, asshole keeps hovering.

“Would you like me to move?” I asked, slightly annoyed at the fact I’d had to close my loading laptop twice already.

“Yes, yes,” he responds.

“Right, well just say so then. It’s not that difficult, no need to cause a problem is there?” I mumble, loud enough for the English people in front of me to hear, but quick enough for the asshole not to be able to understand. Quite glad now that his English was minimal. I contemplated throwing a difficult to translate insult in there for good measure but decided against it.

Despite this, Kuala Lumpur has been rather good! I was joined here by my mum and sister, Hayley, who took an impromptu holiday to see me for a few days after the disastrous start that was not being allowed on my plane, having a rubbish host in Yogyakarta and consequently a rubbish (actual) birthday. I was glad of the company. It was nice to be able to have someone I know to show my photos to, moan about how crazy dirty Indonesia is and show my surfing bruises to. I think Hayley had suffered a bout of culture shock by the time I arrived, as she found Kuala Lumpur very dirty and smelly! To be fair, it is a little, but it’s not a patch on Indonesia!

I was met at KL Sentral bus station and taken to the hotel to drop off my bags. I was then shown the sights of Central Market, where I let some little fish nibble on my feet! I know this seems to be the latest trend in the UK at the moment, but I’d not got around to having it done there and was keen to try it. Until I took my shoes off and faced the fish. It’s actually quite scary!

“They have no teeth,” the fish spa lady informed me, “They won’t bite, just massage.”

I eventually mustered up the courage to dip my feet in. It feels very odd. Difficult to describe but I’d recommend giving it a go.

We headed to “Kenny Rogers Roasters” for dinner. Yeah, Kenny Rogers as in the country music star. He was plastered all over the walls. I don’t know if he’s affiliated but it was an odd restaurant. My mum had asked if I wanted some Western food for a change, and for the sake of my sister’s dislike for rice and noodles, I agreed. Looking back, I think Hayley would have preferred a huge steaming bowl of rice boiled in Kuala Lumpur sewer water. We both opted for pasta as meat on the bone isn’t our strong point. I chose the Chicken Macaroni Cheese and she went for the Tangy Chicken Spaghetti. Mine consisted of macaroni shells, fake cheese sauce and those bits of sandwich chicken you buy in Tesco. Had I become so accustomed to nasi goreng that this was gross?

Apparently not as Hayley didn’t much enjoy her meal either. She had the same chicken as me, the macaroni substituted with spaghetti and instead of fake cheese sauce; she had “tangy” gravy poured over it all. Delicious.

The next day, we took the KL Hop On Hop Off bus to the Butterfly Park. This was great as pavements here aren’t made for walking. Unfortunately it rained during the bus journey so the lady at the butterfly park informed us there may not be as many butterflies due to the rain. Where they were hiding I don’t know. I didn’t mind though, because I saw more tortoises and turtles than butterflies! Hooray!

I also realised during my batik course in Yogyakarta that my souvenirs were becoming significantly tortoise themed after being given a little wooden tortoise by the French family in Bali and making my own tortoise batik. To add to the collection, I got a little fimo tortoise magnet from Kuala Lumpur yesterday. I’m not obsessed, they’re just everywhere…

Anyway…back to what I’ve been up to. The next day I saw some more tortoises and turtles. Genuinely. But they weren’t the main attraction, the KL tower was. However, when you get your ticket, you are offered to choose one additional activity, and as the F1 simulator was taking a siesta, Animal Zone it was! The KL tower lift made my ears pop, but when you arrive at the top, you’re given a little iPod-esque device with a video tour telling you which window to look out of and what you can see, quite cool. Then we went to Animal Zone and saw some tortoises.

Yesterday was another animal themed day. This time there were no tortoises, just deer, two bears, some pets and some ELEPHANTS! We went on a little package tour to a nearby elephant sanctuary – stopping at Deerland on the way – where you could feed the deer, see a hamster in a cage big enough for one of the bears and have your photo taken with a bear! An actual honey bear, like Winnie the Pooh. Except if A.A Milne had had his books illustrated with real honey bears, then Disney would now not be raking it in from the 100 Acre Wood.

The main attraction was of course the elephants – and the extraordinary amount of Lancashire folk on our bus, which always alters my mum’s accent. That’s Lancashire folk that alter my mum’s accent, not elephants. She doesn’t speak Mammoth.

Our ticket entitled us to feed the elephants, ride the elephants and bathe with the elephants! Very exciting! However, on hearing the words “Watch out for the poo”, seeing the colour of the water and watching everyone else being splashed with said water as soon as they sat on the elephant, we chose not to “bathe” with them. The feeding was fun though, and the ride. Hayley and I rode together.

“Can I get on first? Behind the man, then I’ll be in the middle, think it’ll be safer,” she asked, not knowing how sweaty the elephant man was going to be.

All in all, I have a very good first impression of Malaysia. Especially in comparison with Indonesia, so much so that I’m now considering changing my plans again to avoid having to head back to Sumatra for orang-utans and diving, but instead heading to Sabah as originally planned to do the same stuff in an all round nicer feeling country.  Subject to change. But hopefully not.

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Observations on Indonesia

Indonesia may consist of a hell of a lot of islands, of which I have only explored two, but there’s a few things in common I have noticed so far…

1. Rules of the Road

When driving in Indonesia, you should overtake and hoot everything, road signs hold no meaning and when crossing the road as a pedestrian, you are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Even on a crossing, even if the little man is green.

2. The Village Gates

I’ve noticed across Bali and Java that when a village or community stems off from a main road, there tends to be an arch, or at least some pillars to let you know where you’re heading into. I quite like the idea. They are all quite personal – some are, I assume, sponsored by mobile phone networks, some display the date of independence and some are painted beautifully. These are my favourites, they look very grand, like you’ll be greeted by Mickey Mouse at the other end with Jiminy Cricket on his shoulder and magic in the air. On the other hand, the worst ones look like the gate into Auschwitz. They may as well draw up a sign, “You don’t wanna be passing through here. Rape, pillage, murder, we’ve had it all ‘ere”.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, after all you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, so why judge a village by it’s entrance arch? Who knows, behind the bright green one decorated with the independence date some twisted Walt Hitler could be waiting to attack.

3. No Smoke Without Smoke.

I hate smoking. Literally hate it. However, here in Indonesia, I would estimate maybe 80% of the population smoke. I think you can even buy chocolate cigarettes if my weak Bahasa Indonesian has taught me anything. And if there’s no-one smoking around you, then don’t worry, there’ll be a plastic fire not too far away to fill your lungs instead.

4. Double Standards.

This could be interpreted in a few ways. Number one; Indonesians are very house proud and will spend LOADS of time sweeping dead leaves from their porch….but the toilet may leave much to be desired. Number two; You could be driving through what appears to be a run down ol’ town full of shacks and bamboo hut houses…and suddenly pass the most amazing looking Mosque. Number three; Remember, the white people are infinite pits of money, this means tourists pay more!! I understand this isn’t exclusive to Indonesia but it’s very annoying.

Indonesia is like a really annoying friend. A bit smelly, might creep up on you and scare you for no reason, but you always have fun together so you keep seeing each other. (Don’t worry, I’m not thinking of anyone I know/have known/will know!) This is why I’m planning on coming back. I know, right?!

“But you hated Bali!”

“And that Couchsurfing girl!”

“And there’s rubbish everywhere!”

Yes, I know. But I want to like Indonesia. I think now, I’m half way there! I’m hoping Sumatra will make us friends for life. Maybe we’ll get those half heart necklaces to prove it.

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Crappy birthday to me.

It’s been a pretty rubbish birthday so far…allow me to explain…

Here’s yesterday and why I’m now in a hostel…..

Woke up, headed out to Borobudur which is a temple 2 hour bus ride away. host said her friends cs people were going – but then they didn’t have a mobile number so I went alone – again, her sister drove me to the bus station….
good day there, met Yvonne from york again who had met another guy (Matthew) and I went around the temple again with them. my host had been talking about this Ramayana ballet thing, which there was a big arrow on my map to. so between us, we decide maybe we’ll meet again there later!

we get the bus back, I get off near the centre coz I hadn’t eaten anything all day (she didn’t give me breakfast and her sis drove me straight to the bus station, so no food all day!). so I stopped for a meal….I’d just finished and I get a text “do you still wanna come? it’s a 40 min motorbike ride from my house” I’m thinking I’m closer than her house, so I text back saying I’ll walk from here…she texts back saying get the transjogja bus to “museum blah blah blah” so I go to the station, show the text to the girl, she tells me which bus…I wait, get on bus, check the bus map and think ok, so I turn round then get off…so I do that (not checking the name of the bus stop – I saw the Ramayana ballet place and thought “this must be it”…I wait for about half an hour then she starts texting me like “where are you?” “are you far?” “I can’t see you” etc….im texting back like “im here, right by the bus stop, outside the entrance to the place.”…..then I spot Matthew sat having finished his meal! so I head over towards him…and then get a text saying “I’m going home, ive been waiting like 25 minutes. im tired now.” so I text back saying “well, im here. I’ve found my friend from today so do you mind if i still go with him?”

we head over to get me a ticket, and just as I get my ticket, I get this message: “the curfew is 00:00 and make sure you come back before it. and I am absolutely disappointed, I had been waiting for you for 25 min and I broke my promise to the polish guys to see the show at prambannan. if you told me in advance that you are not interested of watching it, I can go by myself.”
what the hell?!?!?! you can’t let someone into your home and then turn schizo on them for a mistake!!!

it turns out that there were 2 Ramayana ballets last night – I’d gone to the wrong one (but the one that was signed very clearly on the map!!!). So I stayed and watched, it finished at half nine and I decide to head back. I asked a little rickshaw man how much to go the station near her house (i didn’t have her address on me, just the name of the station near her house and directions how to get to her house from there)…he didn’t seem to know where it was. so Matthew said he’d walk me home.

we got so lost! asked loads of people…from what I could remember of the street name, they didn’t seem to think it meant anything!! we came the street name, they didn’t seem to think it meant anything!! we came so close and then it was like 11.30 and she wasnt texting me back with her address so we had to get a rickshaw to the taxi terminal and then a taxi to Matthew’s hostel and I had to spend the night there.  huuuuh. so yeah, that’s how I turned 22! fun times.

then today, i make my way back to her house this morning, i arrive she’s SUPER nice to me, says we are going to a cs meet up for the Indonesian independence day (today-my bday!) at 1, but I’d already arranged to talk with my boyfriend at 1 today so i told her this, she was SUPER nice, said she’d take me to a really good cafe with wi-fi and let me borrow her laptop etc, which she did. then we meet her friends at the cafe, they eat, i go upstairs to Skype, feel like she’s telling them about last night…i come down to eat, they are ready to leave, she seems annoyed that she’s having to wait for me to eat…we head to this meet up thing, she ignores me, talking to all her friends individually, they keep looking over at me, its obvious shes telling them about last night. i felt so angry!! you can’t treat people like that!!
then Isaline who I’d met the first night we went out came over and was really nice and I broke down coz my host had been so mean and I wanted to leave. she offered to take me to my hosts house on her scooter to get my stuff and then to town to get a hotel but my host insisted on coming….we left her house, Isaline took me into town and helped me find a hotel and we’re going to go out to a really good restaurant (she’s studying here atm and knows these things!) and have a proper birthday……she couldn’t have been more helpful. but my host was like schizophrenic or something!!! so now I have a nice hotel, with a proper shower and western toilet and I can relax and not be anybody’s pet! it was like I was her cs accessory – when I arrived this morning and said I wanted to use the internet at 1, she said, “well you must be tired, rest in your room til then.” and in her house I felt like I had no option but to rest in my room!! not that i wanted to socialise with her at this point but its the principal….phew. what a day….

Everyone has been lovely except the girl i was staying with!! the most important one to be nice!! hey ho, it’s over now, tomorrow is my new birthday! 🙂

*NOTE*- I am aware of the bad grammar in this post. Frustration doesn’t allow for grammar!

Categories: Indonesia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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